Reach future charity consumers | Rathbones

Every era experiences change,” says consumer strategist and recent guest speaker Will Higham. “But certain eras experience more than others, especially those that come just after a major technological innovation. Gutenberg’s printing press democratized knowledge and helped usher in the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment. James Watt’s steam engine helped power the Industrial Revolution. We are living through another such period today. Digitisation and its consequences – from the Internet to the smartphone – are creating a new Digital Revolution, whose impact is reaching into every sector.

“Commentators like to come up with names for these things, like ‘paradigm shift’ or ‘disruption’. Whatever you call it, it boils down to one thing for most of us: business-as-usual isn’t likely to work any more. Like it or not, we all have to explore new business models, markets and revenue streams if we want our businesses to survive.

“It can sound intimidating but it needn’t be. These developments offer as many opportunities as threats. But to take advantage of the former and avoid the latter, it’s essential that companies – from commerce to charities – understand and adapt to them.

Smart Consumers
“The Internet is almost ubiquitous. Nine out of ten adults now regularly go online. Unsurprisingly this rises to 98% among 16-34s do. But perhaps more surprisingly, it’s true too for 42% of 65 and overs: up from just 33% in 2012. Over a quarter of charitable donations are made online. 75% of donors now research a charity online before making a donation. The average online donation has grown by 32% over three years to £70.

“This sounds like good news. But sadly poll after poll shows that the charity sector is not taking enough advantage of the opportunities the Internet offers. According to a major Lloyds Bank survey, over half of small charities currently lack “basic digital skills, which is more than double the number across all SMEs. Almost three quarters (71%) of UK charities do not accept donations on their own websites. And 20% do not have the facility to accept any online donations. Making your charity Internet-friendly offers huge opportunities for growing reach and revenue.

Social media and smartphones also offer new ways to spread news and encourage support. Two thirds (66%) of all online adults in the UK, which is over half (59%) of the total UK population – have a current social networking site profile. Social media offers huge opportunities for sharing content and boosting support. Interestingly, 80% of people are more likely to trust an organisation whose CEO/leadership is active on Social.

Today 62% of Britons use a smartphone, compared to 54% in 2012. And 20% of 65-74s do, compared to just 12% in 2012. When my parents were campaigning in the ‘70s and ‘80s, no matter what a charity said or did on television or in the papers, people could only make an actual contribution in shops or via collecting tins. But thanks to the smartphone, when a potential giver hears about something, they can now contribute then and there, wherever ‘there’ is.

The more we use smartphones, laptops and other mobile computers to run our work and social lives, the more we expect the freedom such devices offer in other areas of our lives. As a result, convenience & choice are proving increasingly important behaviour drivers. Consumers expect to be given more options: different channels, different media, different ways and amounts to pay. They don’t even want to be limited to traditional shopping hours anymore, as can be seen by the growth of ‘inshopniacs’: nighttime shopping rose 31% in the last year.

The amount of data and communications consumers experience today is making them value time more. As a result they are spending less time with each service, and gravitating towards ones that are easy to use. Today over half (55%) of website visitors spend less that 15 seconds actively reading content on a page. This is one reason visuals are becoming more important. Studies show that people typically understand pictures and videos more quickly than they do words, and are able to take in more information from them. As a result, visual images are the most shared content: 43% of online users share visuals, and infographics and other data visualisations – are liked & shared three times more than other content. Consumers want to be able to deal with things more at their own pace. This is one reason many consumers prefer marketing via emails – as they can open and read them when and where they want – to mobile and pop up ads.

Loitering With Content
Content has always been important to charities, as a means of educating people about a cause, and encouraging them to give. With economic and technological change driving a need for re-skilling and the proliferation of media and technology channels driving a desire to ‘keep up’ with what is happening, content is becoming increasingly important to consumers too.

More and more of them are looking for information and facts to share. And they are not limiting themselves to traditional content sources: 27% of 18-24’s time on social media is now spent reading posts created by brands. Creating interesting, shareable content will prove an increasingly important support driver for charities.

As citizens are confronted with more and more media and marketing content, the way that content is presented to them will become increasingly important. Information is likely to stand out if it is easy to obtain and share, if it is simple to read and contains visuals, if it is interactive (‘gamified’) and/or contains a call to action.

With the growth of new digital and video technologies, charities can also increasingly use content created by their customers. The key is to make easy to create and share, as ALS did with the ice bucket challenge.

User-Generated Giving
User-generated content is part of a broader trend: customer-generated advocacy and marketing. Britons are exhibiting more technological and social autonomy: from price comparison to medical self-diagnosis. And they are increasingly trusting of their peers. As a result, customer advocacy is becoming an increasingly powerful marketing tool. For instance, consumers are increasingly happy to spread marketing messages: if they find them interesting and amusing, and if sharing them boosts their social status. Whether it’s on broad social media like Facebook or Twitter, or specialist image-sharing sites like Pinterest, which is growing as fast as Facebook did 5 years ago.

Unlike the ‘something for nothing’ generation that came of age in the ‘90s and ‘00s, teenagers today increasingly believe in meritocracy, collective autonomy and a sense of ‘duty’. This ‘Recession Generation’ felt the impact of the economic downturn early in their lives. As a result, they are more aware of the need for personal and communal effort. They will work hard for a cause they feel part of and believe in. They will help those they feel are part of their world. And it doesn’t hurt that volunteering also looks good on the CV! But there is a catch. They are self-sufficient – and typically distrustful of traditional methodologies and attitudes, and top-down organisations and hierarchies. They want to do things their way: and to appeal to them, charities will need to offer that. Embracing user-generated giving is a great way to do that.

Be Prepared
Recent technological and social developments have had a huge impact on commerce and the third sector. Future developments look set to open up even greater opportunities for charities: virtual reality and smart TV to wearables and the Internet of Things.

Some charities are already pioneering these new technologies. Street fundraisers from Amnesty International are using virtual reality headsets with images of the war-torn streets of Syria, rather than buckets and clipboards. Cancer Research now enables customers to donate money to its shops outside of normal retail hours via interactive shop windows. eBay users that have iPhones can offer a percentage of auction sales to charity via a new ‘Sell for Charity’ option.

More and more charity workers are embracing innovative fund-raising and marketing methodologies. But for a company to succeed in today’s volatile commercial environment, it needs to be able to adapt its campaigning and fund-raising strategies to technological and social changes as they happen. The key here is to create a company culture that is open to change: an ‘innovation culture’. Management needs to encourage innovative thinking among employees, offering appreciation and rewards for good new ideas. Staff should be given more autonomy to come up with, perhaps not their own targets, but certainly their own innovative ways of reaching those targets. Intrapreneurialism – small teams acting like start-ups within a larger company – should be encouraged.

Innovation can be a vital tool. It’s not about trying something just because it’s new or trendy. It’s about seeking out the opportunities new technologies, methodologies and markets provide. And that’s good for you, for your charity and for the planet.

The ten advisements for tomorrow’s charities
1. Try to have a presence on your givers’ favourite media and social channels
2. Make it easy – and fun – for givers to help you
3. Encourage givers to campaign and fund-raise on your behalf
4. Offer them interesting facts and visuals that they can share
5. Be the trusted knowledge hub for your sector or specialism
6. Emphasise the humanity of your charity and link to local areas
7. Encourage givers’ loyalty by making them feel part of your ‘family’
8. Find new ways to empower and engage your staff
9. Consider collaborating with other brands – and other charities
10. Seek out innovations and determine how to use them to further your charity